Buddy Trip to New Buffalo, Michigan: Autistic Journeys

Beaches of New Buffalo, Michigan

For most of the journeys I have taken, it was done traveling solo towards multiple destinations. Most being the keyword. Despite numerous delays due to schedules clashing and the weather not always being cooperative, I was about to take on this short trip with a good buddy of mine named Ron Delhaye. He would be the wedding photographer who happened to hire me for a graphics design internship a little over two years ago as of this post. He has been very accommodating to my Asperger’s while also trying to teach me, along with his good friend and mine Jamie Wayne, about graphic design in real world scenarios and tips on running a business. They also brought me to different conferences to meet other people that have also been encouraging and supportive of my current endeavors. It’s a nice change to being surrounded by such positive people and energy. It can make quite the difference if one feels that they have been surrounded by negativity all the time.

That was then. While I’m still working as an intern for Ron Delhaye Studios, I eventually grew an interest in photography and eventually established Christopher Casson Photography to pursue a new dream of traveling and photographing locations I have never been to before, whether popular tourist attractions or places in the middle of nowhere. This time I would have a travel partner come along on the trip. With the previous said difficulties of scheduling it, we were finally able to pin down the day and decided on heading towards New Buffalo at the very last minute. It ended up being later during the day then expected, but both of us had some work to be done before starting the trip. Clients have to come first after all.

The work was eventually done and I carpooled with him towards Michigan much later in the afternoon. Since the sunset was much later due to the time of year, I didn’t mind this. We were still going early enough to explore the area after all, and that’s what was important for me. I am not typically good at starting conversations, especially in face-to-face situations, so it was a little quiet at first. Eventually we started discussing multiple subjects concerning our businesses and just life in general. Eventually a song came up on the radio that made me instantly think of a movie that I decided to bring up. He chuckled at the thought and the conversation on different genres of music and movies began. For instance, back in middle/high school I was a huge fan of horror movies and typically watched them by myself. I get annoyed with “horror” films that rely too much on pop up BOO scares and tons of gore, unless it was done in a comedic twist such as Evil Dead 2. I’m in the camp that loves the growing sense of dread and suspense that stretches on for what feels like forever and makes the viewer uncomfortable until the big payoff. I never did mention to him that the type of horror films which actually scare me are supernatural films. He probably will now after reading this blog. The one thing that always carries suspense and true horror in my opinion is the unknown. It feels like a lot of horror movies these days don’t seem to grasp this concept and try to explain everything, thus ruining the tension. I’m getting rather off topic here enough as it is though. Another time maybe in terms a future blog post about creating a mood piece with photography.

Photo courtesy of Ron Delhaye.

Photo courtesy of Ron Delhaye.

The lonely seagull
Girl chasing seagulls along Lake Michigan

We eventually arrived at New Buffalo, Michigan as he pointed out different aspects on the town itself while we were driving through. Apparently the place gets insanely busy during the summer months, yet gets rather quiet in the evening. Maybe during my return trip I’ll have a walk around to have a better look of the main street going through. It would be a nice change of pace along with just soaking in the atmosphere of the area in general. I believe in relaxing and enjoying your time at a location first before taking some shots. In my opinion, taking shots in a relax state will have that feeling and emotion at that moment be captured, with the future owner of the print being able to feel the same when viewing it on their wall. This is what I hope to accomplish in every photo I take. If I don’t feel the shot and just do it to get something on camera, it ends up looking like junk in my eyes during post-production. How can I tell when to take the shot? It’s rather difficult for me to describe. Guess you can call it a gut instinct. I just look around and instantly know that I must take a shot of this specific spot at a certain angle, sometimes also making a mental note to take it at a certain timeframe. Will also experiment with different views to see if I get exactly what I envision, but it doesn’t always work out. Practicing and pushing yourself past your limits is a must not only in photography, but in any industry. It’s how humanity has advanced for eons after all. Never settle for less. Back to the reasoning on bad shots when not in the moment, it then becomes just wasted space on the camera that could be used for much better shots, thus delaying the need for another memory card.

The road then started to weave through the town instead of a straight line as we got closer to the harbor, eventually meeting the shores of Lake Michigan once again at New Buffalo Beach Park. For a short while I just stood there at the parking lot while Ron was preparing his camera gear. Took in each breath of fresh air as I looked at the waves coming in from the horizon, partially hidden in the haze that overtook the place. For a brief time that felt like an eternity, I also closed my eyes as I felt the wind brushed past me and headed inland. Despite all the distractions and noises from all things technology that I still enjoy, I just find the act of simply being outside and enjoying the ambience of nature to be the most enjoyable parts of my life. It’s become my new drive and passion for photography.

 

The old boardwalk of New Buffalo
Boardwalk along the dunes.
Stairway to top of dunes at New Buffalo beach.

It didn’t take long before both of us started walking around the stall we parked in front of to view the beach. Ended up getting a nice laugh watching a little girl start running into a flock of seagulls on the beach while screaming her head off. A few passersby also had a good laugh at the sight as both of us tried to capture the moment with our cameras. He made note of a panorama shot of a particular spot and got out of the way of the camera’s view as I took several shots in a row. Made a mental note to create the panorama later using Lightroom. Ron proceeded to point out the boardwalk nature trail just behind us, where he took numerous photos in the past with senior and family portraits. Several shots were taken as both of us walked along the boardwalk, with Ron pointing out a few spots in the distance. I eventually turned around to find him pointing the camera at me to take a nice shot while I was continuing my work. He mentioned that he was trying to create an awesome panorama shot with me in it and Lake Michigan as the background. After seeing it in post production the next day, I decided it was so well done that I wanted to use it as part of my social media banners. Still thinking on whether to use it on my business cards as well.

Boardwalk stairs
Old meets new wood construction of the boardwalk.
Photo courtesy of Ron Delhaye.

Photo courtesy of Ron Delhaye.

Beach at New Buffalo, Michigan
Migrating birds

We arrived at stairs leading down towards the dunes as I immediately saw a potential shot or two in my head. Just the way my mind works. Sometimes I know a hundred percent exactly what I want or a vague idea where I have to take several shots at different perspectives before getting the shot I like. I could tell Ron saw it as well as I got out of the way for him to get a few captures. It was at this time I crouched down and started taking photos of him in action, possibly to use for the About Me page on his website or a profile photo. He turned around and apparently thought the same thing as we snapped a couple of photos of each other. One could insert epic trailer music for the scene going on here as if we’re in a tremendous battle for the most awesome photographer portraits. We both pointed our cameras towards the boardwalk stairs to try taking photos, as he gave tips about creating interesting shots by picking a focal point and describing the texture of the worn out wood. I took a few shots showing the comparison of old versus new wood for a striking contrast shot, trying to create a feeling as if the viewers are traveling in the past in some way. He then asked how my camera worked in terms of picking a focal point, since he has never tried my camera before. I let him take a look at the monitor and showed him the settings to do so.

Photo courtesy of Ron Delhaye.

Photo courtesy of Ron Delhaye.

Ron Delhaye in action with his camera.
Landscape of New Buffalo beach

From there we eventually switched cameras and taught each other how to use the basic functions. It was a bit of a learning curve for both of us as I had a mirrorless camera while he had the classic DSLR, so it was quite the experience. His camera felt like a giant brick for my hands while he was amazed at some of the features my camera had in comparison. In terms of catching fast movement such as sporting events or some wildlife, DSLR cameras are still better than mirrorless as of the date of this blog post, but mirrorless cameras are no slouches either and have been catching up. I also like the smaller size and light weight of my mirrorless camera, as it is easier for me to put in a backpack while I go cycling. A friend and fellow wedding photographer of his helped convince me to go mirrorless as he considers them the future for camera tech going forward. I could see how that can be true with some of the benefits I’ve discovered. Both Ron and I would like to eventually upgrade our cameras in the future, but for now might as well make the most of what we have. I’ve learned this lesson very well with messing around with graphic design before I even had the money to buy a copy of Photoshop. All I had was Microsoft Paint embarrassingly enough, but did a few pieces of work late in my MS Paint stage in life that made a few people think I was using basic Photoshop tools to create and refused to believe me otherwise.

We eventually turned around and walked right back to the parking lot, passing a few people that had skateboards on the boardwalk. Our attention turned towards the harbor to the east as he took a few shots of the area. I eventually joined in as well with a few shots of my own, one for another profile piece that Ron could use possibly. He turned his attention back to the parking lot where a couple had gotten out of their vehicle to feed the large flock of seagulls surrounding them. He got a small chuckle from the guy shouting about one of the bird settling on top of the vehicle in jest. Most of the seagulls just stood around them. Only a duck appeared to be running up and made a short flight to capture bits of McDonalds french fries from their hands. Eventually a seagull or two joined in on the feast and then walked away, but still within distance in case they could steal a few more if given the chance. The couple appeared to be having a great time, with the girl having a good laugh every now and then. Her boyfriend smiling along while carrying the fry container in his hands. She occasionally took some fries from it to feed the ducks and seagulls herself, making a small gasp as one seagull quickly grabbed the piece of greasy potatoes and immediately flew off with its catch. We couldn’t help but capture these great moments.

Photo courtesy of Ron Delhaye

Photo courtesy of Ron Delhaye

Feeding seagulls while surprised at a few on the car
Seagulls fly away from the couple
Couple surprised as seagull flies away with food

Ron eventually decided to run into the flock in order for me to get a shot or two of the scene playing out. My attention was full on the couple at first to see if I could capture their reaction, but then quickly turned to get a shot of him with a bunch of the birds flying overhead. Our attention turned our focus back to the harbor shore where the seagulls were settling down again by a few ducks swimming about. Ron decided to get right on the ground for a few shots while I crouched in place nearby. They just strolled along the shore as a boat started moving out towards Lake Michigan. Eventually the girl decided to walk up to the shore to make an attempt the feed the ducks one last time before turning back, presumably to head on home with her boyfriend.

Ron Delhaye chasing seagulls.
Flock of seagulls by the shore.
Photo courtesy of Ron Delhaye

Photo courtesy of Ron Delhaye

With the wind turning a bit on the bitter end, we decided to grab a bite to eat while waiting for that golden hour. On the way however, Ron drove me around to different parts of the shoreline and nearby homes, pointing out different spots where we could take the sunset shots we were aiming to get. It was certainly a nice neighborhood, but I would personally rather like in an apartment or condo so that I wouldn’t have to deal with lawn care. Also within walking distance to cafes if possible to do some work while at the same time relaxing with a nice iced coffee. At the same time though, I like being able to go out and just cycling immediately towards open fields and groves of trees. I also mentioned the possibility of living in a shipping container home with some solar panels on the roof, but then there was the topic of what the shipping containers have been used previously, since there really is no way of knowing. Could have been used to carry something toxic and Ron joked about the possibility of them carrying radiated objects. Hey, it could be a way to turn myself into a superhero like a bunch of Marvel characters did.

The discussion continued on as we eventually decided to eat at what he considers the best cheeseburger joint in the region called Redamak’s. After trying out a cheeseburger with a chili topping, I can attest to this claim. It was absolutely wonderful! Ron decided to try out a veggie burger with a number of sauces. He mentioned that it tasted very closely to a real hamburger and got some joy out of it as well. I wanted to pay for the meal, but he wouldn’t have it and kept insisting that he would pay the bill. Our discussion continued on topics such as marketing strategies with social media and even towards a discussion on phone plans. He was a little intrigued on a carrier I was interested in trying myself starting early next year called Google Project Fi. Whether he will go for it is up to him, as later that evening I gave him a link to the website for him to look at for comparison to other mobile carriers he was considering. He then went away to the restroom as I was preparing to sneak out my card to pay for it while he was away. He returned in time before I was able to act. Next time though…

Photo courtesy of Ron Delhaye.

Photo courtesy of Ron Delhaye.

Ron Delhaye taking a photo of the harbor.

Unfortunately there was too much haze and cloud cover to really view that golden sunset hour I was aiming for, so it was decided to end the day instead of getting that capture. He eventually made a post on Facebook on how he ended up being taught instead of teaching that day. I am still unsure of that, as I felt the whole time I wasn’t teaching much of anything besides the basic mirrorless camera functions. Or maybe I just underestimated myself in some way. I still had a lot of fun either way and also was great having a landscape photography trip again after two long months. It was a nice change of pace from traveling alone as well with a fellow photographer and friend. Just another memory born that will be remembered for ages to come, preserved in timeless photos. I cannot wait for the next trip!


As for what the topic for the next blog post will be, I’ll leave that as a surprise once again. Until then, see you later!

To see more of Ron Delhaye's photography work, click here.

To see Jamie Wayne's graphic design work, click here.